Continuing Professional Development for Women in Business

Arriving just in time for the start of the workshop, one delegate stated that she almost didn’t come – the mountain in the in-tray was ominously threatening. And then she thought, this is precisely WHY she needed to attend the Professional Development for Women Workshop, to get her busy life into perspective and regain control of the in-tray, amongst other things.

The workshop had been planned for a small group of professional women, to ensure an intimate and supportive environment whilst they addressed their personal and professional development. Held on Monday 11 October, the reasoning behind the 3pm start was that this would allow delegates to do almost a full day’s work before attending – thus causing the minimum of disruption to threatening workloads. This was particularly convenient for those working in central London, as the venue was the elegant building of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the edges of St James’s Park and Parliament Square.

The three hour workshop was intensive. As the workshop creator and facilitator, I opened the session by outlining its objectives. These were first, that delegates begin to address their own development needs, and second, that they should understand how to start. In discussion, delegates added their own objectives, including the desire to acquire a framework they could use to set career decision making against, and these set the tone of the event.

Topics covered were focused on the role and importance of continuing professional development through personal development, endeavouring to stress the need for a holistic approach to achieving a healthy balance between work and private lives. So many people struggle with imbalance between the two, and delegates understood the value of making adjustments where necessary, to relieve stress.

"That’s all very well, but how?" asked one of the women. That was addressed by looking at the advantage successful people gained by having clear, unambiguous and achievable goals. Delegates themselves decided on the key criteria for successful goal setting, and stories were told to reinforce the success which can be achieved by setting goals in specific cases. Planning for action to support new goals was also explored.

Other discussions centred around the nature of mechanisms to support action, ranging from the use of a mentor or a performance coach, through to networks both formal and informal. The women found themselves able to talk about what had been successful in their own circumstances – or not, as the case may have been. They found that sharing experiences is of immense value in this sort of work.
At the conclusion of the session, delegates were asked, "what next? What will you do after this?"

I know from experience that it is so easy to leave a good workshop feeling fired up to "do something", but so often nothing is done immediately, and then action just drifts into inaction – such a waste!

Delegates were advised to start thinking immediately about their own objectives. By setting a few, strong life goals as a framework, other supporting goals, actions and achievements would begin to be easier to address, one thing leading to another. With the firm life goals in place, a more flexible approach to the rest of the planning and implementation could be retained, a recipe for greater success on all fronts.

And to keep everyone on target, I suggested that I would follow them all up, about a month after the event, with a telephone call to discuss progress. The delegates agreed – that was a real service!

So, how successful did I consider the event to be? At the final summing up of the workshop, delegates agreed that everyone’s objectives for the event had been achieved, both theirs and mine. Without doubt, each of the women went away feeling that they were equal to the task of addressing their personal development. With the support on offer beyond the event, it is probable that they will actually do something constructive, rather than let things drift, making the day both good use of their time and excellent value for money. Feedback indicated that they would all be willing to recommend the workshop to friends and colleagues, and also be interested themselves in follow-up events. Other workshops are now in the planning stage, and I envisage customising them to suit specific groups of interested people, tailored to suit. An exciting prospect!

© Diane Davy 1999

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